Massachusetts Distributor-Manufacturer Revives Maxim Brand

A restored 1923 Maxim is dwarfed by a 2010 Maxim stock pumper built by Greenwood Emergency Vehicles.
A restored 1923 Maxim is dwarfed by a 2010 Maxim stock pumper built by Greenwood Emergency Vehicles.
Maxim logo
The new Maxim logo, which is similar to the original.
Greenwood Emergency Vehicles built this Maxim
Greenwood Emergency Vehicles built this Maxim tanker for the Jamestown (R.I.) Fire Department.

Tim O’Neill, president of Greenwood Emergency Vehicles, chuckles when he talks about his effort to resurrect a legendary fire industry brand.

“At a time when fire truck orders are down around 40 percent across the industry,” he said, “I’m out here building fire trucks under the Maxim name.”

“Out here” is North Attleboro, Mass., where his company has been in business for nearly 32 years, serving as an E-ONE dealer in five New England states and a Horton Emergency Vehicles dealer in all six of them – Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. “We went from being a distributor to a distributor-manufacturer a long time ago because we’ve always built specialty vehicles that weren’t in the E-ONE portfolio,” O’Neill said.

He said his company, which has been building 10 to 12 trucks per year, has modest goals and wants to continue as a regional manufacturer. However, he said he was eager to build the company’s brand faster than making a dozen vehicles a year would allow.

“I researched a lot of the old-time names in fire truck manufacture and found that the Maxim name was not in use and had never been trademarked,” he said. “If a mark hasn’t been used for two years, it’s up for grabs, and Maxim went out of business in 1989. So clearly the two-year window had been exceeded.”

O’Neill said he jumped at the opportunity to build his brand with the Maxim name, which originated a little more than 10 miles from his North Attleboro company. He applied for a trademark on the name and logo in 2006 and received it two years later from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The origin of the Maxim Motor Company goes back to 1914 when Carlton Maxim, a member of the Middleboro (Mass.) Fire Department, founded the company to build a fire truck for his department. Once word got out about how satisfactory his efforts were, orders came in from other departments.

Maxim expanded several times and became a well-known apparatus manufacturer in the northeastern part of the country, building a reputation for customized high-end fire trucks. Its pumpers and aerials could also be found in the Midwest, on the West Coast and in foreign countries.

Aerial ladders became a popular Maxim product, with their reliability becoming so respected that the ladders were often used by other fire truck manufacturers.

But in the go-go 1980s, Maxim Motor Company went through a series of owners and several bankruptcies, and closed for good in 1989.

“Maxim always had a good reputation for building quality fire trucks,” O’Neill said. “So we’re using the trucks we build at Greenwood to carry on the Maxim name.”

His company builds wildland urban interface vehicles and stock pumpers, as well as specialized one-of-a-kind vehicles. He said he is trying to develop a Class A pumper business, having made a couple of stock pumpers using Spartan chassis.

“I don’t think Class A pumpers will be a huge part of our Maxim business, but we want that to be an option for our customers,” he said. “We’d like to build our overall manufacturing business up to making around 25 trucks a year.”

However, he emphasized, Greenwood has no plans to become a national manufacturer.

“We will not send a truck to where we can’t adequately service it from one of our three locations in the Northeast,” he said. “We don’t intend on establishing distribution points around the country.”

But there are exceptions to his self-imposed servicing limitation. Greenwood recently exported two fire trucks – a rapid intervention vehicle and a compressed-air foam system (CAFS) minipumper – to the island of Mustique in the Grenadines, West Indies.

The sales were unplanned. O’Neill was on vacation in Mustique and fortuitously sat next to the country’s public safety director at a bar: “We got talking, and he said, ‘I think it’s interesting that I meet a guy who sells fire trucks because I want to buy one and I didn’t know who to call.’ “

The two trucks filled a niche, the kind of business O’Neill said he wants to develop.

“The island has its own service capability, Mustique Mechanical Company, which will perform all the necessary service and maintenance on the vehicles,” he said. “We’ll provide the technical support and the parts.”

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